Surrey University Stag

BEYOND TOLKIEN - REWRITING FANTASY - 2023/4

Module code: ELIM053

Module Overview

Fantasy stories, poems, novels and other forms have been a staple of cultural consumption throughout the 20th and 21st Centuries but have a history as old as storytelling and literature itself. Naturally, we will use the term 'literature' in its widest creative writing sense, which would include visual, performative, virtual and other mediums as well as more traditional on-the-page forms. The term 'fantasy' has many sub-genres, categories and types of writing associated with it, and indeed alongside it, from myth and legend, fairy tales and historical fantasy, to high or epic fantasy, dark fantasy, magical realism and low fantasy to hybrids such as science-fantasy, gothic fantasy, comic fantasy, and fantasy noir. There are many, many more to choose from. There are also plenty of examples of other forms of speculative fiction writing that intersect with or spill over into what we might refer to as 'fantasy' in different ways - Star Wars is a famous example, where, even though its stories are set in a Science Fiction setting, the forms in which these stories are told, and the techniques and tropes used to tell them, arguably make these closer to fantasy stories than traditional Science Fiction. Superhero fiction is another form that we can often readily describe in terms of 'fantasy' tropes. This creative writing module will help give you an introduction to different forms of fantasy writing and will ask the question: what makes fantasy writing 'fantasy'? Also, how can we as writers plan and produce writing that stands out from the crowd of existing fantasy literary production? Following an initial introduction, the module will be spilt into 5 blocks of two weeks each looking in detail at different specific aspects of writing fantasy literature. These blocks may change from year to year to take advantage of our staff expertise in particular areas, and will really allow students to unpack aspects of these areas that are useful to them as writers and creative practitioners. Alongside, and interwoven with, essential stylistic and craft creative writing considerations such as world building, structure, character and voice, dialogue, narrative and plot we might examine writing gender and sexuality in fantasy, writing race and identity in fantasy, transnational and post-colonial writing in a fantasy context, writing historical fantasy fiction/poetry, eco- and sustainability-fantasy writing, comedic fantasy writing, writing monsters and monstrosity, writing the multiverse and more. Note that this module will not focus on young adult (YA) and childrens' literature as we have excellent provision for this elsewhere in the MA programme. In each seminar we will first spend some time discussing the set texts and the techniques and standpoints employed by writers and other artists working in the wider fantasy fields, before moving on to the workshop part of the session where students will produce work in accordance with the task set for that week, within and outside of the classroom. We will read and discuss a selection of pieces within each class. At the end of the semester students will produce a portfolio of creative writing, alongside a critical commentary reflecting on the creative work produced and using theories, concepts and practices studied on the module. Possible submissions for the creative portfolio include prose (short stories, extracts from longer works, flash fiction or other forms of prose writing), poetry, screenwriting, writing for the stage, graphic novels and other visual forms, game writing, interactive fiction and more.

This module connects to other contemporary literature modules on the programme where the emphasis is on 20th and 21st Century approaches to creating and examining literatures and our cultural responses to them.
As a creative writing module, it also makes up part of the creative writing pathway in the degree, connecting to a wide variety of creative writing modules offered as part of the programme.

Module provider

School of Literature and Languages

Module Leader

MOONEY Stephen (Lit & Langs)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

JACs code:

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 95

Seminar Hours: 22

Tutorial Hours: 2

Guided Learning: 20

Captured Content: 11

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites

None

Module content

The following areas are indicative of topics that may be covered:

•    Fantasy and genre
•    Fantasy roots
•    Writing gender
•    Writing sexuality
•    Writing race and identity
•    Writing monstrosity
•    Transnational writing
•    Writing historical fiction/poetry
•    Eco writing
•    Comedic fantasy writing
•    Long and short form
•    Narrative form & plot
•    Character and voice/dialogue
•    World building
•    Fantastic geographies
•    Writing the multiverse

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework Creative Portfolio (3000 words or equivalent) plus critical commentary (1500 words) 100

Alternative Assessment

n/a

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate:

* the development in their knowledge and understanding of creative texts and textuality as well as and creative practices, especially in relation to fantasy literature and creative writing and other theory
* their expanded understanding of the social, cultural, historical, geographical and sustainability contexts for the production of creative texts and of the way those texts intervene in related discourses
* their nuanced understanding of genre based textuality (and specifically fantasy forms of this)  in relation to creativity and the formal and aesthetic dimensions of ‘literary’ and ‘non-literary’ creative texts
* a broad range of subject specific and transferable skills gained in creative and critical thinking, in the production of creative texts and critical contextualisation of these, and of practical support in the development of employability and/or creative practice skills
* variant and individual thinking about genre forms, methods and approaches by introducing a range of conventional and unconventional assessment submission types aimed at a wide variety of learners and learning styles

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

* a Creative Portfolio (3000 words or equivalent) plus critical commentary (1500 words)


Formative assessment and feedback

Verbal feedback and formative ‘feed forward’ is provided through seminar discussions, and tutor and peer feedback in seminars, on short pieces (250-500 words of prose, or equivalent in another form) presented as part of the confidence building safe space of the creative writing workshop element of the classes. Each student can expect to present 2-3 such pieces over the course of the semester according to a schedule worked out between the tutor and the student cohort.
Written and/or oral tutor feedback will also be provided on one piece of creative writing (maximum of 1000 words or equivalent for poetry) during the course of the module (the student is free to submit this at any point of the semester). During the optional gaming sessions, students may also benefit from play and peer interactions in a gamic environment.

As such, writing, presentation and critical analysis skills will be developed and honed which will feed forward to the summative assessment at the end of the module. There is the option of a range of other feedback mechanisms agreed between tutor and students in week 1 of the module, such as seminar contribution and writing and play exercises.

 

Module aims

  • The module aims to: facilitate the acquisition of the detailed knowledge and skills necessary for producing creative writing texts in the broader fantasy field, with a particular focus on genre, form, characterisation/voice and worldbuilding contributing to the future careers of students as professional writers and also in career paths outside that of creative writer
  • develop in students a thorough critical understanding of writing practices in fantasy genres and forms in the context of contemporary culture through a range of prose, poetic, dramatic and visual texts
  • develop the ability in students to analyse and appraise compositional styles and techniques in modes of writing and representation pertaining to fantasy writing of different kinds, and apply critical insights to their own writing practices
  • help students hone their ability to apply critical awareness to their own creative production, to critically develop their thinking about their own practice as writers and to present this in cogent terms
  • encourage students to work as a group in the production of collaborative work in the supportive safe-space workshop context
  • foster semi-structured individual and communal activities in class, including gameplay, with the consequent development of individual and collaborative practice within the architecture of the module
  • encourage students to submit work for publication
  • eevelop in students an advanced understanding of the connections between fantasy conventions in both 'literary' and 'non-literary' forms and writing practices in the context of contemporary cultural concerns, theories and movements such as the Blue Posthumanities (new oceanic imaginaries, ecology, sustainability and more), the Monstrous Anthropocene, etc.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 By the end of the module students will have: developed their ability to use specific compositional skills that will have practical application to their practices as writers applicable to a wide range of career pathways alongside that of creative writer KPT
002 More fully developed their sense of their own practice as writers and/or that of other writers in relation to fantasy genres and forms, and composition practices that have had, and continue to have, significant impact upon and significance for contemporary global culture and cultural production KPT
003 Gained significant confidence and advanced ability in critical analysis and thinking in relation to fantasy genres and modes of writing as well as to their own creative production, through the workshopping of their own work and those of their classmates in the safe and supportive space of the creative writing workshop environment C
004 Developed a firm sense of the materials and techniques available to them as writers and be able to locate this work within the context of contemporary writing in these forms and the social and cultural areas that these 'literary' and 'non-literary' forms address KCP
005 Established a thorough knowledge of the context of conventional as well as radical and experimental writing practices that have been developed in relation to fantasy genres and textualities, and have begun to locate this work within the context of contemporary fantasy writing K
006 Produced high quality genre work individually and in groups, as well as have been introduced to intermedial collaborative ideas fostering growth in confidence and resilience through sharing work and discussing that of others within the mutually supportive workshop environment and the weekly gaming session CT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

•    Hone and develop students’ writing skills in creative and academic writing (prose fiction, poetry, screenwriting and/or other modes of production) by more fully developing their sense of their own practice as writers in relation to traditional, contemporary and experimental practices that have been developed in relation to fantasy literature and writing that have had, and continue to have, a significant formative effects on contemporary literature, film and culture
•    Assist students in locating literary texts and their creative and critical writing in historical and cultural contexts by helping students understand the context of traditional and canonical as well as radical and experimental writing practices that connect fantasy, genre and writing theory to contemporary social, culture and literary practices and modes of consumption
•    Equip students with the research and writing skills they will need to produce creative writing (prose fiction, poetry, screenwriting and/or other modes of production) and critically informed creative criticism by helping them gain significant confidence, resilience and ability in critically analysis and thinking, and an ability to use specific compositional skills that will have practical application to their practices as writers
•    Facilitate students’ productive reflection on both the creative process itself and the finished work by helping them gain significant confidence and ability in critical analysis and thinking, and an ability to use specific compositional skills that will have practical application to their practices and employability as writers

The learning and teaching methods include a combination of lecture materials, seminars, captured content, guided learning and independent learning.
A special optional 2 hour gaming session focussed on alternative fantasy settings will also run each week.

Students will engage with preparatory reading, including creative work by other students, in advance of the seminar which will combine discussion of interrelated critical ideas and texts with in-class creative or critical writing exercises each week. Designed to help students reflect on and apply their learning to creative and critical outputs, the workshop environment acts as a safe space for developing and exchanging ideas, support and writing skills.
Varied learning materials such as lexical texts, physical material prompts, video and sound materials, games and gaming sessions are designed to increase student accessibility and will present them with a range of interpretive materials and approaches with which to work and develop their own thinking and creative responses.

 

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list

https://readinglists.surrey.ac.uk
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: ELIM053

Other information

Surrey's Curriculum Framework is committed to developing graduates with strengths in Employability, Digital Capabilities, Global and Cultural Capabilities, Sustainability and Resourcefulness and Resilience. This module is designed to allow students to develop knowledge, skills and capabilities in the following areas:

Employability: This module acts alongside other MA modules in both the English literature and creative writing programmes to help students hone to a highly polished and professional standard their writing, composition and communication skills, as critics and/or as creative writers.
In this Masters level module you will get the chance to study, alongside advanced contextualising critical materials, one of the most commercially successful genre forms in the literary industries (actually a whole series of commercially successful forms). This feeds directly into the writing, language, analytical and communication skills Masters level students in literature and creative writing develop on their degree beyond those attained in undergraduate degrees. These advanced skills are highly prized by contemporary employers in students educated to post-graduate level.
As a creative writing student, you will get the chance to explore literary form, style and language
in a wide range of fantasy genres and sub-genres that will help you develop and contextualise your own writing. We will look at areas such as mixed genre writing, modernist and post-modernist forms, identity writing, sustainability and eco- writing, interfaces between lexical text and the visual arts, narrative and worldbuilding, Point of View (POV), voice and other formal aspects of the writing craft.
The skills developed in this module, developed alongside your other literature and creative writing modules, will help equip you for the vast range of employment and career pathways that our post-graduate students go on to after (and sometimes during) their degree, beyond that of academic or ‘creative writer’ (novelist, poet, non-fiction writer, for example). Amongst these are: copywriting, editorial roles, teaching, publishing, marketing, proofreading, journalism and social media roles of all types just to name a few.
You will get the opportunity to experiment with and present critical and creative work in the workshop settings as well as respond to the work of other writers and critics, another set of key skills that creative writers bring to the table in a host of career and employment settings.
 
Global and Cultural Capabilities: Literature and creative writing are fields that teach us about the human experience and our part in local and global cultures, facilitating exchange of ideas and experiences and helping to foster creative and cultural empathy in readers and writers of all kinds across the globe. Creative and critical writing in these fields also play a very important recording and preservation role in narrativising and keeping alive and vibrant different cultures and experiences, especially those that might otherwise be silenced or endangered.
In this module you examine fantasy from a number of different angles and cultural contexts, including works that challenge orthodoxies of gender, race and identity in a host of international and global contexts. Fantasy literature mirrors our own real-world cultural positions and aspirations, often highlighting possibilities, problems and complexities that our globalised cultures generate in our collective experience. You will be asked to respond creatively and critically to texts and modes of writing from this multi-faceted literary (and ‘non-literary’!) field in relation to your own cultures and backgrounds, to think about those of other students and writers, to respect and value differences in experience and to bring this knowledge into your creative and critical writing practice.
The weekly seminar and workshopping sessions give students the opportunity to present your own narrative to the cultural and literary context of fantasy writing and to experience and respond to those of others in a friendly, constructive and open forum.

Resourcefulness and Resilience: Literature and creative writing as disciplines exposes us to different, varied and diverse experiences from history as well as our contemporary world. Fantasy writing adds to this a particular focus on alternative and imaginary histories and contemporaneity. These literatures and the critical material around them teach us many things about ourselves as people, individuals and communities. How and why we behave and think the ways we do, how we cope with the challenges that our lives (and our lives in university!) throw at us. This module is no exception: fantasy as a collection of genres and sub-genres presents more than imaginary pasts – they also represent possible futures, allegories for the values we seek, and hopes we have, for the societies we wish to build, reminding us that we can reshape our communities in ways that better reflect our own needs as individuals and citizens.
Famously, literature conveys important lessons, comfort and significance (emotional, mental and spiritual) to us through the medium of language, not just in what it says, but how it says it. Fantasy writing, in all its variety, offers alternative and salutary as well as vibrant and liberatory methods of literary expression that continue to inspire wonder in us today.
For creative writing students, the life of a writer can often be a solitary and isolating one. This module, through workshopping, group work and shared writerly experience will help equip you for the real world setting of your current and future writing practice. You will also continue to hone the critical contextualising faculties beyond those of undergraduate study in this and other MA modules on your degree through constructive critical workshopping of your work and those of your post-graduate peer writing community. The creative writing workshop at post-graduate level is a focussed and creatively scholarly forum for you to receive support, guidance, encouragement and practically helpful feedback in a friendly and affirming environment that is difficult to replicate outside of university. The writing friendships and writerly connections you make in these creative writing seminars and workshops, and attached events, you will likely carry forward throughout your career as a writer. You will also benefit from the experience of your tutors as professional writers working today and from periodic guest speakers attached to this and other creative writing modules in relation to your practice as a writer, the practicalities of building a portfolio of writing and a profile as a writer, the realities of the publishing industries and the importance of connecting to writing communities that will be essential to your current and future emotional and practical wellbeing and success as a writer.

Sustainability: On this module, you will study a wide range of fantasy literatures both Anglo-American and beyond. One of the strongest trends in contemporary fantasy and other speculative fiction writing forms is the eco-writing and sustainably driven narrative where the fantasy setting is utilised as a place (in all that its ‘placeness’ explores) to critique our contemporary environments and our relationships with them and those living things that live in them alongside us.
The fantasy narrative is also one where (to different degrees of allegorical presentation) misunderstood, marginalised and/or endangered cultures are revealed and explored and this module helps to give voice to some of these important cultural and identity spaces, helping to expand your knowledge and sensitivity as a thinker and as a writer.
As creative writers, students will also have the opportunity to write their own sustainability narratives in their current context in response to the ideas and techniques encountered in the writings on this module.
In this regard, this module corrects directly to other modules on your degree that also have a strong focus on cultural and ecological sustainability.

 

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Creative Writing MA 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
English Literature MA 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2023/4 academic year.